Garden Update–Varieties I am Starting in the Greenhouse–Feb. 8, 2018

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Of course, the biggest garden news around here is that Rob has finished the greenhouse! I have been busily planting little seeds, and now am waiting for them to come up.

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I have planted: Carmen peppers–a long, Italian sweet pepper that turns red quickly.  I get these from Johnny’s.  I freeze these for winter and use anytime I would use a green or red pepper.  They ripen quickly, which is a must in my climate.

Anaheim College 64 peppers: a mild, Mexican pepper to use where green chilies are called for.  I use in my home-made salsa, and I freeze them.

Jedi peppers:  a slightly spicier jalapeño, salsa, chili, stuffed, poppers, etc. (new to me this year–from Johnny’s). I dice and freeze jalapeños for use throughout the year. This variety is new to me.

Sereno: A quite hot Serrano pepper for salsa.  That’s all I use this one for.

Italian Pepperoncini:  I grew these several years ago.  They are seeds from Territorial, and were not what I was expecting–the kind you get pickled in jars.  Instead, they are skinny, squiggly peppers with a nice flavor, and just the tiniest kick to them.  I froze so many, and used them in chili, sloppy Joes, spaghetti sauce, and more.  We really liked them, so am delighted to have them again this year.  My frozen mix was lovely, as I just chopped up the green, yellow and red peppers and mixed them in the bag.  They were different colors because they were different degrees of ripeness.

Willamette tomatoes: This is an old favorite that my parents grew in my childhood, and I continue growing.  It’s great for eating or canning.

San Marzano Giagantico:  This one is new to me, but looks like a large-sized paste/sauce tomato.  I like to make things like tomato sauce, and like the less watery ones for that.

Chocolate Cherry: Little brown-red cherry tomatoes.  They have a really nice flavor.

Yellow Pear:  I’ve been growing these yellow, pear-shaped cherry tomatoes for years.  We like them to snack on, and in lunches during the fall.

Pinetree Cabbage Mix:  I love this one from Pinetree and have grown it many times.  There are many, many kinds of cabbage mixed in one packet, so you get red ones, green ones, pointy ones, round ones, and so forth, all in one packet, which is fun and saves money over buying several separate packs.  I start them in the greenhouse and then plant out a balanced mix in the garden when they are bigger.

Hybrid Broccoli blend:  This one is also a favorite, from Territorial.  The broccoli matures at different rates, so gives me a crop for a longer period of time.  Then, the side shoots keep us going for a long time after I pick the main heads off.

Emerald Artichoke:  This one is new to me, but I planted 6 seeds, and we will see how they do.  We love artichokes and rarely buy them.

Patterson Onion:  This one is a yellow storage onion.  It’s supposed to be similar to Copra, which is the one I usually grow.  I plant the little seedlings out in the garden when they are larger, and in the past have grown enough to last the entire winter.

Red Bull Onion:  This one is a red storage onion.

I planted a little basil, and a small amount of lettuce mix.  I also planted 1 cell each of a greenhouse tomato and a greenhouse cucumber.  If they grow, I will plant them in pots in the greenhouse and see what happens.

We have a heat mat under them, and I water them every day.  They were planted in the super fine started mix, and will all need to be transplanted into growing mix later on.  Rob will get grow lights up this weekend, to keep them from getting spindly.  We don’t have any heat in there, but have a small space heater we can put in there, if the temperatures drop. The cabbage, broccoli and lettuce will be planted out in early spring, as they can take the cold better than other plants.

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I’ve been tying up the raspberries.  On the few June-bearing plants I have been babying, from our old place, I used the biodegradable, stretchable twist ties I bought.  On the Everbearing ones that were here when we moved in, I used baling twine.  That first fall when we moved in, these berries tasted terrible, so I planned to remove them once my other ones got going.  Last summer, they were delicious, so they got another chance!  We will see how they do this year.

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I read quite a few articles on the internet about the Everbearing ones, and there were 2 choices. 1) cut them completely off and I would get a crop late summer or fall. OR 2) Trim out the old canes from last summer, and cut off the tips of the canes that had fruited last fall, and I would get an early summer crop and a fall crop.  I decided to try #2.  I am almost done.  I have cut out old canes, and trimmed the tops.  Now, I am tying the canes loosely in bunches at their bases so they will be more controlled this year.   They got pretty wild last year!  I tightened one existing wire from the old owner for more support, but need to work on that some more, as there are a couple more wires I can tighten.  Over time, the wire has gotten pretty loose.  Then, my plan is to tie up the bushes with more twine as they grow.  I still want to give them a little fertilizer, as well, before I mark that job off as finished.

My mom told me to check my chives, as hers were growing.

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I found them!  I removed the leaves and….

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We will be eating chives!

 

 

 

 

 

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Winter is for Planning my 2018 Garden!

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I spent several hours this week pouring over these 2 catalogs and going over the website at Pinetree Garden Seeds.  I ordered from all 3 places.  I have favorite items from each place, and this year, I got them all.  My standard plan is to order a small package of an item I want to start, say Yellow Pear Tomatoes, and grow some one year and save the other 1/2 for next year.  It has worked well for me in the past when I don’t need very many of a certain kind of plant, but still want to start my own seedlings.  This year was different, as I was starting from scratch.  So, I had a great deal of fun getting to order everything I wanted!

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The greenhouse is starting to shape up.  It’s quite a bit bigger than I imagined it would be.  Rob has been working on it after work, in the late afternoons, but it is still not finished.  I think the greenhouse will be done at about the same time as the seeds arrive. We had contemplated going down to Cottage Grove and getting our Territorial Seeds on Saturday, but decided not to go.  Instead, he felt he needed to stay here and try to finish up the greenhouse.  So, I placed that order this morning.

I’m sure some of you want to know what I am planting.  I will do posts on that as I plant them, rather than one huge list.  I will grow a little bit of everything, though.  Peppers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, beets, lettuce, cabbage, and more!

I have a lot of garden work to do in the next few months.  It’s way too early to do much, and as I write, rain is pelting down on the deck outside the sliding glass window beside me, so it’s very soggy here.  There is some pruning I can do, however, and we are getting ready to do that soon.  Some branches are very high up and need to come off, so Rob is getting that organized.  Some are down low, and I can manage that when I get a sunny day and some time.  I got a nice, new pair of small clippers for Christmas, and am looking forward to snipping off some old debris with them.  That is a job I can get Patsy to do any day, as well.  She loves to snip.  So, we have an old pair that will be just hers, and we will hopefully get to snipping soon!  I have big pruners as well, for the thick branches.

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I have raspberries to trim (everbearing). I’ve been reading about different methods of doing that on the internet, and feel ready to snip soon.  There are a few plants of June-bearing raspberries from my old house that my aunt nursed through the time when we didn’t have a house that are looking great now, and I will tie them up. I’m much more familiar with that kind, as that is the kind I’ve always grown before.  The everbearing ones were here when we moved in, so I kept them, at least until the June-bearing ones come into their full cropping potential.  The blackberries are done and the strawberries need some more fertilizer and some compost.  The blueberry bushes look fine, but I will add fertilizer.

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As I was enjoying a smoothie made from strawberries picked off our bushes last summer, it made me all the more eager to get the process going again for this year!  There is just something so cheerful and hopeful about starting seeds.

Are you making garden plans yet?

 

Garden and Canning Update–September 18, 2017–Pickled Beets and the Berry Patch

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Patsy and I spent a long time working in the garden on Saturday morning.  As you can see, things are beginning to finish up, and we are pulling out the spent vines.  The nice cilantro, basil, boc choi, etc. that you see are doing well.  They are the seeds I planted in August for my fall crop.

On Friday, I pulled all the beets from last spring and made pickled beets.  There weren’t very many, but they were huge.

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They were really, really big and very ugly, but I boiled them for an hour and a half, peeled them, and cut them into chunks.

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I cut around the woody core and threw it away, as it was tough.  I got plenty anyway.

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I made a really big mess in the process and spent the rest of the day cleaning up pink beet juice.

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I made up the pickling brine according to the booklet I got from the extension office and canned for 30 minutes in a hot water bath, according to the directions.  Now, I have a nice bunch (around 14) of pint jars of pickled beets.  Yum!

While working in the garden on Saturday, I had Patsy pull and wash all the carrots, so I have about 5-1 gallon bags of those in the camper fridge.  We also dug the potatoes that were left and the few onions as well.  I picked lettuce and broccoli.  There were zucchini and cucumbers, too.  I picked every tomato that was red because it was supposed to rain. They tend to crack in the rain.  I got 1/3 box and will can those up this week.

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I was able to use a few of the volunteer baby green onions this week.  I need to weed around them better (obviously) and they should go all fall and live through the winter.

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The tiny little cabbages I planted have grown well this time, and are starting to head up.  The Swiss chard is prolific, but needs a little TLC.

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Our biggest task was to get these Marion (black) berries tied up.

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We pruned out the old, dead canes and untangled the new vines and tied them up.  Patsy was a big help.  We both ended up with lots and lots of stickers in our hands, despite the gloves.  In the end, we were both pleased with how the berry row looked, though!  This job is not for the faint of heart:)  I’m hoping I finally got the last sticker out of my hand last night!

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All done for this year!

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My sister sent more Italian prunes and grape tomatoes.  I will send the extra tomatoes to school with Rob, as neither she nor I can eat an entire bucket of them.  They are loving them at his school.

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The peas and kale are coming along nicely.  Kale is hardy, so will last.  Most of the garden is winding down, though, and I plan to continue pulling out spent vines, picking small bits of produce that are still ripening, and then Rob will till up the empty areas.  We have a huge compost pile where I’ve been throwing the old vines, canning scraps, etc., and we will spread all that out and till it in if we can.

We did get our first soaking rain last night, and so it will be wet this week, for the first time in a long time.  How nice.  We really needed it.

 

 

Preserving Food and Garden Update–Aug. 18, 2017

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I’ve been picking produce daily in the garden since I returned home from Mexico.  Besides the peaches, cucumbers, snow peas, yellow, purple and green beans and strawberries you see here, I have also harvested lettuce, tomatoes, raspberries and potatoes.

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All of the potatoes in the buckets pictured above were grown from some volunteer potato plants that grew in the compost heap.  I transplanted them into a small row and was amazed by the amount that we dug today–I’m guessing between 15-20 lbs.

I spent some time today pulling up lettuce that had gone to seed, and hoeing out purslane.  I have a ways to go.

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This will be nicely weeded basil, snow peas and lettuce by tomorrow night, hopefully.

I did preserve quite a bit of food this week, as well.

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I asked for some bean SWISHERS.  That would be people who would swish the beans around in the cold water after I blanched them for 3 minutes so they could cool down before I froze them.  I loved that job when I was little, so wanted to share the joy with Jake.  Soon there were 3 pieces of equipment in the sink, and I asked Jake what in the world he was doing to the beans.  “SQUISHING THEM, AUNTIE” he replied.  I had a good laugh and then explained what I needed and he moved on with the process.  Soon, I found this:

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And a little later…this…’

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But we finally finished and everyone had fun!

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I made a batch of fruit cocktail using the pears my sister gave me, peaches from our tree, pineapple, maraschino cherries and grapes Rob bought (the grapes were only 99c/lb and the others were in bulk from Cash and Carry).

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It comes out so pretty that way!  Of course, before I could can in these jars I always use for fruit cocktail, we had to FIND the jars upstairs in the shop attic.  That took a while, but we prevailed.  These jars hold about 3 cups and it is the right amount for us.  Because fruit cocktail is a lot of work to make, we only have it occasionally and I don’t want to waste a bite.  I have enough ingredients for another batch, and hopefully the pears will ripen up enough for me to do that tomorrow.  I got 13 today and want more.

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I got 5 jars of tomatoes, as well, and none too soon, since I used the last quart of tomato pieces I can find, yesterday.  I still have pints, but why waste lids by opening 2, if I need a quart?  So, I do both quarts and pints.

I have lots more produce to pick and process, as well as boxes of fruit ripening on my porch.  I love this time of year as the canned jars start filling the cupboard.  I’ll be at it again in the morning.

Off on a Trip and Garden Update-Aug. 2, 2017

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It’s a little hard to see, but the green onions have successfully dropped seeds and new, little baby green onions are popping up all over the place.  They are in a good spot, and will be my fall crop.  I also have several baby watermelons forming.  I’m very excited since I cannot remember getting any the last few times I tried.  I guess they like this heat wave:)  We’ll see if they ripen.  The cucumbers are going crazy so I’ve made quite a few dill pickles.  The tomatoes are just starting to ripen.  I’ll have lots when I get back.

Because we are leaving tomorrow, and will be gone for several days, we worked hard in the garden yesterday morning.  The lawn was mowed, the place where the old beans were tilled up was re-planted with lettuce, spinach, basil, cilantro and snow peas.  I also planted some old kale seeds.  Lovana likes kale, and it may come up and give her some.  Because it is so hot right now–over 100 and 90’s predicted for the “cool down”– those seeds will have to be watered twice a day and may not germinate.  But, I’m sure some will, and Lovana and the automatic sprinkler system will take care of the watering while we are away.  She is staying home and keeping house.

We’ve been packing like crazy.  I need to take quite a bit of food, for my special eating needs, so have quite a few items in bins.  I will eat what I can from the group meals, but out of my cooler and bins for the rest.  We have purchased what we needed, got extensive work done on the van, got the air conditioner fixed for the second time after Rob drove down 5 hours of washboard roads on his recent sponsorship of the youth rafting trip and some connections jolted loose, packed our clothes, and otherwise done what we could do to make the trip safe and productive.  Now, the rest is up to the Lord to keep us safe and lead us into the work He wants us to do.

We will be going to a place about 4 hours south of the border, on the Baja, and will be partnering with a mission organization there.  We will do whatever they need done, including VBS for kids, helping with services, a youth outreach, possible putting on a roof somewhere, and ???  Rob and I will help with the cooking for the 28 teens and 10 adults (my numbers may be a little bit off–we’ll know at 5:30 am tomorrow–we are not in charge so don’t have exact info).  We will also participate in whatever spots we are needed.  The teens have been preparing and will do much of the things like leading singing, puppet shows, crafts with kids, etc. and we will help and support them in their endeavors.

I may be able to post updates, and I may not.  It depends on my internet access or lack thereof.  In any case, I should have a lot of nice pictures when I get back!

Canning Green Beans and a Garden Update

This morning, I got up early and started picking beans.  I got SO many, just like I was hoping to.  At 9, my mom and aunt showed up to help, with Jake and Michaela in tow.  While out in the garden, I took the opportunity to pick a few cucumbers, snow peas, zucchini.  Things are coming along nicely.

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The bucket is full of beans, and the other veggies are just resting on top.  I had no time today for anything else, but tomorrow I’m going to see if there are enough cukes for a couple jars of pickles.

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My pollination issue has been resolved:)  There are probably about 15-20 zucchinis forming!

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These are Carmen peppers.  They are a sweet pepper, and are the first to turn red at my house.  I usually grow them from seed, and was delighted to find a few plants of that variety that I could buy.  They’re not ready yet, but are coming along.

Some of the seeds I planted for the late summer garden are up.  The bush peas are up, and the snow peas are just starting to poke up.  Beets are up like crazy, but the pole peas are nonexistent.  The seeds may have been too old.  I will plant a few more things after these beans are done and pulled out, like yet another row of lettuce.  The little cabbage plants are starting to take off.   Right now the garden is full.

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Before he left for camp, Rob set up this camp stove for me to use in the outside covered porch and got me a full tank of propane.  This house came with a flat-top stove, which is not recommended for canning on.  So, I’m learning to can a different way–outside, and with propane instead of electricity.  There was a lot of juggling things around, scurrying in and out of the house setting up things, and generally figuring out the new way of doing things.

My snapping crew kept snapping steadily while I washed jars, filled them, added 1/2 teaspoon salt, filled with water, put on lids and rings and began processing.  Then I put my mother on a chair in front of the canner to keep it at a steady 11 pounds of pressure.  She had to continually adjust the propane level to keep the pressure consistent for 25 minutes for quarts and 20 minutes for pints.  We always watch it the entire time.   It’s the safest way.

Michaela and Patsy helped snap and then Michaela helped Grandma by timing the length of time needed with her phone.

Aunt Janet kept snapping.  All morning long.  Jake asked to go to the Dollar Store to get the prize he had earned by doing his daily activities.  All morning long.

By lunch time, we had them all snapped and into jars.   By 1 o’clock, we had 2 loads cooked and cooling.  After a quick lunch, we all dispersed to our respective errands and I finished canning them when I got back.  From the Dollar Store.  (We also did a library activity, and some other things, so I didn’t actually finish until about 8:30 pm)

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At the end of the day, I have 21 quarts and 17 pints, all cooling on a table outside.  I’ll let them cool all night and wash and put them away tomorrow.  I am very pleased with the amount we got.  I could not have done it without all my helpers.  I’m so thankful for their help.  It was a long, satisfying day.

 

Gluten-Free Cashew Chicken

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I found the recipe for cashew chicken that I promised to post.  I made it for dinner tonight and remembered why I loved it so much.  So, here’s to Jeannie–cashew chicken over rice

I started with a recipe from Taste of Home, and have changed it up over the years.  Here’s what I did today.  This recipe is very flexible.

Mix:  2 cups chicken or turkey broth

1/4 cup cornstarch

3 Tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce (we buy it by the gallon at Cash and Carry)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Stir those ingredients together, and set aside.  This is the sauce that gives the stir-fry a great flavor.  Stir it one more time right before pouring it over the veggie/meat mixture.

Cut up vegetables and chicken and put into bowls, piles on a cutting board, whatever you want.  It just works better to have it all cut up before you start.  You can vary the veggies according to what you can grow, or get on sale.  Today I used:

2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into very small pieces (Mine were diced into about 1/4-1/3 inch pieces)

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

Celery sliced thinnly (today it was the center of a stalk that needed used, other times I might  use 2-3 sticks)

4 large mushrooms

1 cup snow peas ( I would have liked 2 cups in there, but that’s what I had today)

1 bunch broccoli, cut into flowerets (it was 1 medium-sized bunch)  I also cut the stem into small pieces and added that in.

2 cloves garlic, minced

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I put a small bit of oil into a frying pan and cooked the chicken and onion for about 4-5 minutes, until the chicken was looking almost done.  Then, I added a little more liquid (some of the mix I made above, or plain broth.  If you use the mix, take from the top so you don’t get any cornstarch at this point.)  Then, I added the veggies in the order of hardest first, and softest (or anything that needed to stay crisper)last.  So, today I had carrots, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, snow peas and minced garlic.  If you have a different assortment, it will work.  Others I like in there are zucchini and summer squash, peas, and bean sprouts, to name a few.  The sauce is very important and it gives any veggies that great flavor.   I let it cook for a bit, stirring often.   After the veggies were crisp, but getting tender, I poured in the mixture.  I continued cooking and frequently stirring until the mixture thickened.  I did not let the veggies get very soft, just crisp-tender, because that is how my family likes them.

I made white rice to go with this, and it sopped up the marvelous sauce nicely.  I sprinkled some cashews on top of each portion after it was plated.  This would have been enough for 4 normal people, but 3 of us very hungry people ate it all.  It would be easy to stretch this, by adding more veggies.  It is tasty and healthy.